|LIVE NOW| Twitter evolving materialized views on top of the raw event system


I am excited to see Twitter get serious about intelligent material views on top of the event stream that it shows in almost-raw form to date.

At the beginning the view of Twitter was incredibly raw. As a user you would see the events posted by the people that you follow. That was kinda it.

Then the individual tweet view got a touch smarter:

  • links to @foo and #bar,
  • inlining photos and videos relatively recently.

There has been talk of a “Facebook like” filtered feed approach (which scared many users), and we are seeing some signs of this such as “What you missed while you were away”, but all in all Twitter has kept pretty darn minimal.

Immutable Data Hides Many Sins

At the heart of Twitter is the notion that a Tweet is somewhat immutable. You can’t edit it after the fact, other than deleting it entirely (and even then it is probably cached in various places and never truly gone).

This makes life a lot easier for the service and the third parties that consume it. There is no need to handle change events, or deal with the sneaky “1) get a Tweet popular, 2) edit the Tweet entirely to say something else or #rickroll” issues. However, I think that for Twitter to get to the next level it is time to make changes in the views.

What would a native Meerkat feel like?

When we saw MeerKat and Periscope jump onto the scene what did we see in our Twitter streams?

|LIVE NOW|

Not helpful, and probably incorrect. Just because video was rolling at the time the tweet was sent, I may be seeing this tweet at a later time where it isn’t the case.

If video was built natively into Twitter from the beginning, it would tell you the truth about the state of video. Imagine if you were looking at the feed when the video streamer turned off their camera. At that point |LIVE NOW| would disappear.

Other features would include:

  • A native icon would replace the text “|LIVE NOW|” in the UI
  • You would be able to tell Twitter “Tell me when a follower starts streaming”, and “Really tell me when @Bob starts streaming

Beyond video

The video example is only one of many changes that Twitter can employ. When you observe your stream you see others emerge. I see other state examples such as:

“✌ @Reading “HTTPS: the end of an era” ing.am/p/3Lne”

Slack has changed my expectations from text input across the aboard with the ease of editing mistakes. I hit enter a lot earlier with the knowledge that I can hit the up arrow and quickly edit and change the message. I now hate it when I make a mistake in a Tweet aren’t can’t do the same.


Google is doing this well across several of their products. Google Inbox takes your email streak and makes sense of it. The emails with information on flights and car rentals are packaged together into a clean card that represents a holistic view of the trip. A better User Experience comes out of the previously disjointed emails, as Google Now had found reason out of the various data sources.

Finally, I would love smart de-duplication. When a slew of followers are tweeting, quoting, and retweeting the same content, wrap it together in a nice way. I love the fact that Nuzzel uses my friends engagement to tell me what is most popular within my network, and Twitter could do more of this itself.

State Streams and Materialized Views

If you are interested in implementing this type of separation in your own work I recommend watching Martin Kepppmann talk about state streams and materialized views.

And then you need to finish up with the master, Rich Hickey, on Value Values.

For Twitter, although we don’t see these features showing up in the UI yet, it isn’t that they aren’t world class at handling this type of architecture. I can’t wait to see Twitter changing in the coming months.

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